Commercial corridor audits are a popular tool used to gather basic data on street-level business activity in a community. These audits provide insight into the current state of the local business sector. They accomplish this through surveyors who track business-related changes such as vacancies or a change in location. Auditing local commercial corridors allows communities to develop a better understanding of which businesses are operating and where they are located.

Milwaukee’s Near West Side Partners (NWSP) has recently begun a commercial corridor audit on the businesses present in the Near West Side. In order to perform the audit, the Near West Side partners are walking the streets of the community, recording basic information about every business. NWSP completes a commercial corridor audit annually in order to develop a comprehensive understanding of business in the Near West Side.

While walking the commercial corridors to complete the audit, surveyors use the Loveland Technologies app ‘Landgrid’ to collect data. They enter the address of each business into the app and note whether the business is occupied, unoccupied, or partially occupied. Although this app usually requires a paid subscription, NWSP is able to use the Loveland Technologies app at no cost through a grant from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). LISC awards this grant to communities in order to enhance commercial corridors and housing development through streamlined data collection services.

Here are some of the vacancy rates from 2016 to 2020 for the commercial corridor audit:

  • 13% decrease of vacant parcels on our 9 commercial corridors since 2016

  • 18% decrease on Vliet Street since 2016

This street-level research is particularly important now, as many businesses change their operations as a result of COVID-19. Whether this is temporary or permanent closure due to pandemic-related issues, the commercial corridor audit has begun to take note of this. COVID-19 is expected to drastically change business activity on a global level, and the audit will allow the Near West Side to track how the local community is being impacted.

Especially in this uncertain time, the Near West Side Partners recognizes the importance of businesses in the community. As a result, they are continuing the audit throughout the entirety of the Near West Side, practicing social distancing to ensure the public’s safety as well. The data collected in the audit will continue to shape the future of the Near West Side commercial corridors.

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